Manufactured by Dronsfield Brothers Ltd. at their Atlas Works in Oldham, England, the Marlow miller was a simple, low-cost machine designed for use in schools, colleges and industrial training establishments. Dronsfield also built the well-known and useful little "Eagle" surface grinder together with a small lathe - the "Mini Lathe" - details of which, unfortunately, do not seem to have survived.
Design rights to the Eagle surface grinder appear to have been passed to the Victa company, based originally in Maidenhead, Berkshire but later of Poole, Dorset. The Victa Company was involved in numerous small machine-tool projects including the well known and beautifully-made Centec milling machine - a design dating back to the early 1940s when the model was introduced as a development of the V.E.C. or Victa horizontal miller. During the 1940s and early 1950s, Victa also manufactured lathes; they used the Warwick name on a designed-for-model-engineering 3.5" x 18" gap bed, backgeared screwcutting belt-drive machine and a quite different and rather advanced range of geared-head lathes sold using the Hobson name. The Company owner having moved to Pool, in Dorset, production continued there, though the location of the factory (or more likely premises, is not known.
Built only as a vertical machine, the Marlow could be had in both ordinary (swivel-head) and turret models - with the latter built only in small numbers, the writer never having seen a single example "in the flesh". The ordinary machines came in two forms: "Standard" and "DF Type" with 2DF2 referring to a better-specification version that had a down-feed facility on the head. Both shared a common cast-iron base and separate main column and were available in five models, though each was distinguished only by the size of the table and how it was driven: that on the Model No. 1 was 22" x 6.5" with 15" of longitudinal travel and 9.5 inches across. All other types had both the same cross traverse (except the No. 5 at 10.25 inches) and longitudinal travel. The No. 2 table was 28" x 6.5" while the Model No. 3 had a 28" x 8" table but with the option of power feed - when it became known as the "3A". The No. 4 had an identical tale to the No. 3, but with a longer column to give 18-inches of clearance beneath the spindle nose. The No. 5 had the largest table of all, 28" x 10" with the usual 21-inches of longitudinal travel but 10.25 of cross traverse. Power table drive came from a separate, reversible motor (mounted on the back of the column) to a 3-step V-belt then via a telescopic drive shaft and "drop-out" worm-and-wheel gearing that mated with the table-feed screw. Unusually, specifying the power-feed option did not shorten the table's travel - it remained unchanged from that of the hand-feed version at 21". Hand-operation models all had a 3/4" x 10 t.p.i (or 2.5 mm pitch) longitudinal feed screw but on the power-feed models this was strengthened to a 1" x 10 t.p.i. Cross travel was unusually generous on a machine of this class and, at 9" for the 8"-wide table models and 8" for the 9"-wide versions, there can have been few complaints from users about that part of the specification.
Employing the same adjustable roller bearing, No. 3-Morse taper head as the "Standard", that on the type "DF Type" was mounted in dovetail slideways (machined into the face of the 9.5-inch diameter swivel plate) and moved up and down by a full-circle 4-spoke handwheel that turned bevel gears connected to a threaded rod. Two versions were offered: the Model 4DF with a hand-feed 28" x 10" table and the Model 5DF with table power feed. Longitudinal travel of the table was 21", a cross feed of 10" and vertically 14.5" - with the maximum clearance between table and spindle nose 20".
Power on all models was supplied by a flange-mounted 3/4 h.p single or 3-phase 1500 rpm motor positioned vertically at the top rear of the head casting with a drive forwards by either a 5-step V pulley, which gave a speed range of 375 to 2250 r.p.m., or with a 3-step V pulley combined with a lathe-like "backgear" assembly to give 6 speeds from 85 to 1450 r.p.m. To change speeds a cast-aluminium cover at the front of the head was slid off and the belt tension slackened by releasing a simple screw clamp and sliding the motor forwards in its mounting rails. The plain vertical head was limited to a 30° tilt either side of its centre position (although, as the head was completely self-contained there seems to have be no good reason for this arbitrary limit) whilst the down-feed versions were able to tilt at 40°.
Sold in two versions, the Turret Miller was available as the TM10 - with a hand-feed 28" x 10" table - and the TM10A with power feed. The longitudinal travel was 21 inches and both the cross and vertical feeds the same at 10 inches. The turret could be slid backwards and forwards over a range of 7 inches and both models were listed as having the feed-type head fitted as standard. The feed screws on all models could be ordered with either inch or metric threads and the usual range of accessories was offered: Neoprine slideway covers, an Autolock collet chuck, 4.5" swivel-base machine vice, 7.5" rotary table, mails or Lo-Volt lighting and a coolant pump, tank and fittings. A very useful feature and a great help with heavier cuts, was the inclusion of a slow-speed, lathe-like backgear assembly on the spindle drive. If this fitting was part of the standard specification is not known but, as this was the most expensive of the Marlow range, the writer is inclined to think that it was.
Although honestly made - and perfectly serviceable - the Marlow miller was not particularly well finished with the rather crude engraving of the micrometer dials being an especially noticeably economy on the part of the manufacturer. In the early 1960s the cheapest Standard Model, the No. 1 with a 22" x 6.5" table and 5-speed direct-drive head was listed at £210 while the most expensive in the same range, at £372, was the 5A-DF with 6-speed backgeared head and power feed to its 28" x 10" table. The turret millers, both with 6-speed heads, were listed at £380 for a version with a hand-feed table and £420 for the powered version..